L.A. Lakers 97, Seattle 86
SEATTLE, April 2 (Ticker) --
Getting on a plane for the first time in
nearly three weeks did nothing to derail the Los Angeles Lakers.
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The Lakers won their season-high 11th straight game and took
sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division with a
97-86 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics as Kobe Bryant
25 points and Shaquille O'Neal added 23.
The Lakers played a game outside of Los Angeles for the first
time since March 13 at Chicago, where their streak began. They
had a home win against lowly Orlando and a "visit" to the Los
Angeles Clippers before sweeping a seven-game homestand.
"We were on the road for most of February, so it's good for us
to come home," said Lakers guard and former SuperSonic Gary Payton
. "That's the way the schedule was. We weren't home for
most of January and February. We went out and took care of
business on the road and now we have to take care of business at
In between plane trips, Los Angeles overcame a 5 1/2-game
deficit to tie Sacramento for first in the Pacific. Besides
moving past the Kings, Los Angeles (53-23) also moved one-half
game ahead of Minnesota for first place in the Western
"We have just been saying refuse to lose," Lakers coach Phil Jackson
said. "Just don't lose, don't beat yourselves and
refuse to lose is what we've been talking about as a team. We
said were going to have to play terrific basketball to get to
this particular point where we challenge for first place and we
have been able to do that."
"The motivation all alone for the second half of the season was
just to get better," Bryant added. "Tonight was a big game.
(If) we lost this game, then yesterday's win was pretty much for
nothing. We didn't want to come up here and lay an egg."
Los Angeles, which has climbed from fourth in the West, took a
77-70 lead into the fourth quarter and gradually put away the
SuperSonics. Bryant scored 11 points in the period and keyed a
10-1 run that pushed the lead to 91-78 with 2:41 to play.
"We were in the game," SuperSonics forward Rashard Lewis
"We had a chance to beat them. I think we played at their tempo
in the second half and not our tempo."
The Lakers were coming off a tough eight-point win over Houston
and a late-night flight. But they did not let the trip affect
them, shooting 56 percent (39-of-70) from the field and
outscoring the SuperSonics, 50-35, in the second half.
Los Angeles moved to 22-4 since the All-Star break. Its last 11
wins have come with the foursome of Bryant, O'Neal, Karl Malone
and Payton in the lineup.
"We are playing good and we are playing with a lot of energy,"
O'Neal said. "We have sustained the injuries and guys look good
from one to 12 and it's a good time to start looking good."
In addition to leading Los Angeles to another win, O'Neal
reached a milestone and enjoyed a light moment. He moved past
Larry Bird into 20th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list
and with 2:55 to play, he crashed into press row chasing down a
After he got stuck trying to get out, O'Neal flopped onto his
stomach and crawled out, emerging with a big smile on his face.
Ray Allen, whose driving layup gave Seattle a two-point win over
the Lakers three months ago, led the SuperSonics with 30
Seattle had won a season-high seven in a row to get within
striking distance of the final spot in the West. But the
SuperSonics (34-42) have now dropped four straight and clinched
a second straight losing season.